Thanks for bringing it up, Si. I'll try one more time to post what I attempted the other evening...
...I've sort of hesitated to post this, but there was also a fatality here at Jackson Hole three days ago. A young woman (33) slipped while skiing into Bivouac Woods, a very popular inbounds run, and started sliding. According to reports, she tried to stop using her skis and both bindings released. She then slid head-first into two trees. The report imples but doesn't definitively say that her neck was broken. She *was* wearing a helmet.
She was participating in the JH Steep and Deep Camp, although it doesn't sound at this point like her group was doing anything particularly "extreme" at the time. She was from back East (Massachussetts, I believe) and had taken several Steep Camps in the past. She had many friends here in the valley and a lot of people are very broken up. It's just so sad whenever something like this happens.
This tragedy brings to mind a couple of things.
First is that JH, like most of the internmountain West, has had very little snow for almost three weeks. That means sheltered, steep runs are scraped off and getting harder all the time. It's not at all difficult to fall, or to have a ski binding release due to the hard snow. Once you start to slide on something steep and slick, you're out of control almost instantly. At that point, gravity and momentum take over. If there's an obstacle in your path, you're going to hit it. Thirty-two feet per second per second (less friction), if I remember right.
I've personally witnessed two other slides in the last few days that could have had serious consequences.
The second point is that all skiers really should learn how to self-arrest. Trying to use your skis (skidding sideways) on hard, steep slopes will often result in a binding release in conditions like this.
Some people like using their ski boots to try to stop, but I personally believe in the pole arrest and actually used it once to stop myself. It's simple and intuitive. Hold one pole by the handle in the palm of your hand just like you would while skiing. Bring the lower part of the pole across your abdomen and grab it just above the basket with your other hand. Now use leverage and both hands to jam the tip of the pole into the snow as *hard* as you possibly can. Curl your upper body around the pole while you're jamming it in the snow. The drag will at the very least slow you down and turn you such that your feet are downhill, which means your feet hit any oncoming obstacle first, rather than your head or chest.
This is easy to do and easy to practice. Just find a moderately steep, slick slope (obviously with no obstacles and with a nice gentle runout not far below you), lay down sideways, let yourself start to slide, and then try it. You'll figure it out almost instantly.
Then, if you ever do go down on a slope where there's danger, you'll have an idea what to do. And if you should ever have to use it, do it very fast and very hard, just like your life depended on it.
It really doesn't take a very steep slope for something like this to happen. We've all watched people slide quite a ways on relatively gentle runs if the conditions are right. Being prepared by having a plan in case it ever happens to you is just one more ski skill to have in your bag.